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The final fight between Zed and his father was about the aliens. It followed the same pattern as the other fights, those about weeding or water fetching or deer hunting, because none of the arguments were about their ostensible subject. Zed was seventeen. His parents were nearing sixty and had lived all their lives in the mountains of what had been western Massachusetts, and maybe still was. That became part of the fight.

“You don’t know anything because you won’t go anywhere!” Zed yelled, his strong, long legs planted apart on the worn kitchen floor. “You just stay on this fucking farm and rot!”

“Zed, please . . .” his mother whispered at the same moment that his father shouted, “I know enough to recognize a piss-dumb moron when I see one! Now get outside and chop that wood!”

“No,” Zed said.

It was a first. His mother gaped at him, a tooth missing in the front of her mouth. His father stood, face purple with rage. When he took off his belt and advanced on Zed, Zed punched him in the stomach. He hadn’t planned on it; the act sprouted all at once, an instant oak whose roots stretched and intertwined deep underground.

“Oh my dear God,” his mother said. And then to Zed, “Go! Go!”

Zed, looking down at his father gasping for air on the cabin floor, didn’t know if she meant go chop the wood or go to his room or go away from the farm. The uncertainty created a space for action. He raced upstairs, threw a few things into his pillowcase, grabbed his .22, and flew back down the stairwell. His father sat doubled-over on a chair, his mother fluttering around him. When Zed yanked open the kitchen door, the lantern on the table flickered in the sudden draft.

A lantern. Chopping wood. Chickens squawking in their pen. Zed slammed the butt of his rifle against the wire. His parents lived—which meant Zed had to live—his entire pathetic life on this hardscrabble farm, in fear that “it” might happen again. Neither one would so much as say aloud the words “June thirtieth.” And they lived like it was 1870, not 2070. His father had even taught himself to pour his own bullets for the antique rifle he didn’t even need. You could buy bullets down in Carlsville. If his father had had his way, Zed wouldn’t have even gone to Carlsville Elementary or known that anything else existed! For that alone, the old man deserved that punch.

Zed couldn’t go back. Not after that. He was free.

Only—

He stood at the head of the trail, gnawing at his fingernails, pillowcase at his feet. Around him the sweet-smelling June dusk gathered in deep folds. The western sky faded from pink to silver and the first stars came out, Altair and Deneb and Vega. In an hour or so the full moon would rise. Zed had never gone the full ten miles to the village in the dark, but after the first few miles there would be the road, cracked and impassable to vehicles but a clear marker. He could do it. He could also live almost indefinitely in the woods, but he’d had more than enough of that. No, he would go to the only place he could go—Jonathan’s. They would take him in.

Wouldn’t they?

A sound came to him, faint on the twilight. It might have been his mother, calling his name in her thin, ineffectual voice.

He slung his pillowcase, made of cheap flowered cotton in what used to be China, over his shoulder and started down the mountain.

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Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine: 30th Anniversary Anthology

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"A truly extraordinary sampler of tales.... Every piece in this superlative collection is a nugget of pure science fiction gold."

-Publishers Weekly, starred review

This anniversary anthology presented in chronological order showcases 30 years of excellent stories published in the legendary magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction. Asimov’s Science Fiction was founded in 1977. As one of science fiction’s most influential and prolific writers, Isaac Asimov wanted to provide a home for new SF writers—a new magazine for young writers could break into. Asimov’s Science Fiction remains that home, as well as the publisher of some of the field’s best known authors.

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